How To Protect Yourself From Bike Thieves + What To Do If Your Bicycle Is Stolen

death to bike thieves

Chances are if you’re an avid cyclist, you’ve had a bicycle stolen from you. Or you know someone who has been robbed. Bike thievery is a nefarious plague that spreads to all corners of the planet; no one is safe. Here’s what you can do to try and project yourself  from these insidious criminals, and what you can do in the event of a theft.

The Basics:

  • Take lots of photos of your bicycle and note what’s unique about it.
  • Write down the serial number or put your personal information in the seat tube. Some individuals engrave their driver’s license number on their frame so that police can readily identify it if it’s retrieved.
  • Get it insured.
  • You can also register your bikes with the National Bike Registry, a fee-based service.
  • Be vigilant at all times. Lock up your bike securely when parking in a public space. You can find examples here:

If It Gets Stolen:

  • Get a police report.
  • Start spreading the word on your social networks, email cycling groups, see if you can get the attention of the local media, do whatever it takes to get everyone on high alert.
  • Scan Craigslist and eBay to see if it pops up there. This online tool,, is pretty handy to set custom alerts.
  • There’s also this new resource,, which allows you to scan listings.
  • Register it at
  • Go to your local flea markets right away and see if it’s being sold there. You can also join this Flickr group if you’re in the Bay Area to share and peruse images taken at Laney College, Ashby, Coliseum and other venues. 7th and Market and the area behind Best Buy at Division and Florida Streets are notorious spots in the city.

And be sure not to feel guilty about it being stolen. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. Yes, you may have forgotten to lock it up. Or you used a crappy lock. Or you left it alone for only a minute and when you got back, suddenly it was gone. Or you didn’t secure your wheels.  When someone chooses to take something that doesn’t belong to him/her, that individual is the one in the wrong – not you. So yes, feel sorry for yourself if need be, but then get good and angry at that scummy bike thief and get your bicycle back. And don’t stop looking. It becomes a part-time job, but if you want it back, you must keep up the effort as much as you can.

Most importantly, remember that we have each other’s backs. So get to know your fellow cyclists and support one another. We’re the main ones who care deeply about our own well-being — which, in the end, means we’re riding happily somewhere on our own two wheels.

STOLEN: Phil Wood Wheelset

Well, I’m sad to report that lightning apparently does strike twice. The wheels off of my Hunter track bike were stolen this afternoon while I was at Pedalfest in Oakland. Be on the lookout for a wheelset with black Sun Mistral rims laced to silver low-flange Phil Wood hubs. Radial lacing in the front (28h), 32h in the rear. The rims are rare and made in the U.S. Looks like I’ll be going back to Laney College tomorrow to hunt them down.

Anyone want me to look for anything? I might as well help other people recover missing goods while I’m making the rounds in the morning. And it seems that my new calling apparently is “Bike Thief Detective”, although it’s doubly sad when I’m working on my own case.

Spotted in Portland: Stolen De Rosa Track Bike

Here’s an update on where things stand with my friend Justin’s stolen track bike. We’ve lined up the assistance of Portland Police Officer Joe Santos, who’s also a cyclist, by way of introductions made via of Kenji Sugahara and Lyne Lamoureux.

Jens Voigt’s Army saw the bike yesterday afternoon: “FYI, one of my teammates spotted the bike @ Saraveza in North PDX. Went to get a lock to keep it there but it was gone.” So we know it’s still in the area and the buyer is perhaps unaware that it’s stolen. If you do see this bike on the streets, be sure to explain to the individual that the bike is stolen and that there are dual police reports filed in San Francisco and Portland.

Thanks to Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland and everyone else who has been spreading the word for us. Justin is super appreciative of your efforts and can’t thank you enough.

And lastly, if the original seller who posted the track bike on craigslist is reading this, you’re a real jerk for not replying to Justin’s emails. We hope you look forward to cooperating with the police.

Dear Portland: Let’s Find This Stolen Bike!

de rosa

Bike thieves – they are the scourge of the cycling community. I recently had my mountain bike stolen, but it was miraculously recovered in just four days. Putting the word out online really helped with its return, and I’m hoping we can do the same for my friend Justin.

I asked him to email me the story about his missing bike and why it’s so important to him. We can all assign a monetary value to our bicycles, but as you know, its real value isn’t about its price tag.

“Here’s the story of my favorite bike ever. A 1980’s De Rosa Super Prestige pista. I purchased the bike from a gentleman on eBay in February of 2005. It was impeccable. Brand new. Mint. Not sure if the guy ever rode it. I took photos of the unopened box after the UPS man delivered it. Then I took photos of me opening the box, and pulling the frame out. I had never been so enamored with a bike. I was in bike love. All those years of staring at old De Rosa catalogs on the website, and now I had one, a perfect one. Not only was it a De Rosa, it also had an ornate decal celebrating a variety of Eddy Merckx’s victories on the top tube. “Incredible”, I thought. The bike was outfitted with Campagnolo’s C-Record pista group and Cinelli bars and stem. It was 100% Italian. I rode it at Hellyer, I rode it around SF, I rode it everywhere.

In August of 2006, I moved to New York for a short time. Knowing full well that bike theft was rampant in the Big Apple, I opted to leave my De Rosa behind in a storage locker I had rented. I thought, “it’ll be safe here”. Now in New York, with fall approaching, I sent my wife (then girlfriend) to my storage locker to fetch a heavier blanket for me. She called me from the storage locker, “Justin, there are 2 locks on your door, I only have the key for one”. Why were there 2 locks on my storage locker door? “There must be some mixup,” I remember thinking. My wife fetched a Public Storage employee to ask about the additional lock. He explained to her that they put an extra lock on because they found my door open. THEY FOUND MY DOOR OPEN!? WHAT!? Why didn’t anybody call me? She finally gets into my locker, and it’s worst case scenario. Everything is gone. Computer? Gone. Records? Gone. Guitars? Gone. DE ROSA!? GONE. **An important side note to this was that, just a few months earlier, my band, Film School, had our van stolen while on tour in Philadelphia. All of our gear was stolen. One of the basses that the thieves took from my storage locker was the replacement bass from the Film School theft. I’d just been kicked in the nuts…TWICE.**

I frantically called friends, posted on message boards, put up fliers, talked to messengers, filed a police report, complained to Public Storage, posted on craigslist, etc. I was optimistic I’d find it. I thought there was no way a bike of that caliber could stay hidden for that long. I setup an RSS feed to notify me anytime something with the word De Rosa was posted to craigslist. I did the same thing on eBay. I did everything. It never showed up though. It was gone.

Then, a few days ago, a random stranger on the San Francisco Fixed Gear message board sent me a craigslist link. It was a De Rosa, blue, same color as mine. It had the same nicks on that incredible Eddy Merckx decal. It was my bike. I emailed the seller in hopes of buying it back, but received no response. The ad has since been pulled, and the bike is gone, again.”

We’ve already started to put the word out in the Portland cycling community. Several friends of ours who live in Portland have already alerted their colleagues, co-workers and the media. But we also need your help getting this bike back! Share this post, be on the lookout wherever you go — bike shops, flea markets — and online. The De Rosa couldn’t have strayed too far as it was just sold last night via craigslist. We hope with your help that Justin might finally be reunited with his beloved bike.